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Upverter was the first trip we had after returning from New York. Located inside a residence house, this start-up company was full of surprises and smarts. Upverter is a company that have built CAD software, which had simplified the process of creating printed circuit boards. Our tour guide Michael Woodworth and Adam Gravitis, gave us excellent insight into the company’s purpose and showed us small demos of their product. They had started the company by making a prototype and joining an accelerator in states. They claimed all the software out there that performed similar tasks are out-dated and terrible to use. Then they lead on explaining that companies creating complex circuits spend thousands of dollars behind hiring engineers that can create these circuits. Also there is almost 0% chance that the circuits these engineers create will function in the first time. It takes couple of revisions for the circuit to function properly. Which can be financially taxing. Their software doesn’t guarantee the circuits will function in the first go, but it provides feedback for errors to make the process of circuit design more user friendly. The software also had a real time collaboration feature; so multiple people can work on one design at the same time. It was like the Google Docs of circuit design. They had said that no other company has ever done that. They had put a lot of thought into User Interface design and were constantly improving it.



The thing that stood out to me the most was the dedication these people had towards their job. It was very inspiring. They had basically invented a solution for a problem they were personally having as hardware engineers. They looked highly frustrated with the software that existed out there and developed a way to fix that, which seemed really cool. Despite having amazing software I thought they lacked a little in terms of marketing. If they involved their selves more in maker community and promoted to people that are starting to learn circuit design, they might have more success. Because new learners don’t have biases towards different software.


  • You are up against big competitions, and established software that people use already. So how is your business model adjusted that you can take people out of their comfort zone of using that software and guide them to use yours?
  • Have you created simple projects and tried to promote them within the maker community using something like Instructables, to get people to use the software more or to familiarize them with it?
  • What are some plans you have to advance this project in future? What sort of tools and projects you have in mind that will enhance this tool?

Evening Activity – MoMA


For one of the evening activities I had decided to visit The Museum of modern art with some classmates. We had arrived there on Friday evening and upon arrival the lady at the reception gave me multiple free admission tickets. I was happy to have more than one ticket; maybe she secretly knew that I easily lose my things. I was most excited to see the Game & the architecture exhibitions, as both subjects intrigue me the most. I was also looking forward to seeing Botanicalls, it’s a project done by one of my professors Kate Hartman. This plant saviour device was located on the third floor along with other familiar looking electronic devices such as Little Bits, Makey Makey etc… Across from these electronics was some beautiful and weird industrial design pieces. There was a really weird shaped laser cut table with hand-glued layers, which looked amazing. I was already impressed with the collection with in first 10 minutes of the visit. Down the hall form there was the long-awaited game exhibition. It felt warm in my heart to see game in an art museum. I tried playing one of the pong games there with my friend Anth. But sadly it was broken, which kind of disappointed me. We quickly scanned through the poster and illustration section and went towards the Music exhibition. Which was amazing! I loved seeing all of these old authentic musical instruments and ads that were great. There was also a cute small model of the Sydney’s Opera house there.




Finally after that, we arrived at the architecture section. They didn’t have models or cool looking structure, but there were some great community ideas scribbled on the wall. A lot of them spoke about how to best make cities efficient to create better living spaces. There was one about Mumbai and how people living on the street are treated by big corporations that want to make buildings in their living space. There was a great suggestion about addressing this issue. This issue is also very close to my heart as I’ve witnessed these things happen to people. After a great tour of the architecture section we headed towards the gift shop. The gift shop had great books and utensils that were super over priced, but amazing.


Overall, I was very happy with the visit as a lot of the projects there related to work we are doing in class. Such as game creation, electronic making and such. It was great to see a museum representing a future direction along with preserving the history.

The Office For Creative Research


The location and context of this place was highly contradicting and ironic. Located between 2 shops in Chinatown with a sketchy looking door was the Office for Creative Research. It made me chuckle when we entered this weird looking building, and saw an amazing Microsoft screen with beautiful visuals on them. After the weird first impression, this place made up with promising projects and presenter. Office for Creative Research is a multidisciplinary research group that makes interesting projects with the use of given data. Jer Thorp, one of the artist and creator at O-C-R explained his processes & projects they have worked on. The first one on the list was, a data visualization project for Microsoft called Specimen Box. This project took botnet data and turned into a gorgeous detailed visuals and audio interaction. It presented clear data on what was happening with botnet data and was very intuitive. Through this data observation they were able to figure out a small error pattern that had occurred with Microsoft’s servers. Their outlook on data was very unique and unusual. They understood data as a creative tool, more than specific numbers, they saw them as tool to recognize patterns and present them in a very creative manner. He also showed us some other projects they had worked on with NYT and MoMA. When we visited NYT Labs, I was captivated with the installation in entrance space, later to find out that OCR had worked on it. Jer also strongly highlighted that the amount of skills they had to learn and how important multi-disciplinary thinking was to them.




This place made me remember the phrase “Don’t judge the book by its cover”. Despite being in a silly looking building, this place had done work that was extra-ordinary. It took me a while to sync in all of the information I had witnessed there. I felt out of all the workspaces we had visited, this place justified in right means, what it means to be multi disciplinary. Despite having background in a different area, Jerr was able to function and work on many different varieties of projects with different mindset. This place made me question my skills, but also gave me many inspiring idea that I wanted to incorporate in my own projects.



  • The process sounds complicated and delicate to produce these 3D models, does that mean there is a high chance of failure and material waste? If so, how does the company deal with the wasted materials?
  • What are the policies against potentially dangerous printing jobs (ie. Swords, knives etc…)? What is your process for deciding between objects that are dangerous opposed to ones that are not?
  • If the submitted models have flaws, is it sent back to the consumer? Or the company makes slight adjustments to fit the guidelines?



For our visit on Thursday, we had taken a water taxi to get to this big factory like place called Shapeways. Hidden inside a maze like path, Shapeway is a company that does high quality 3D printing & laser cutting of artist and community work. Anyone can submit a 3D print or laser cut job request and it will be accomplished with range of materials to select from. The Community outreach officer, Eleanor Whitney gave us a tour of the place.

She started the tour by taking us to a small narrow area with medium sized 3D printers. She explained that the process of taking print request to materializing is very delicate and has high chances of errors. Once there are enough print requests, the designers at Shapeways try to fit the models tightly inside a box to minimize risk & material cost. “It’s similar to playing “Tetris” “-she says. Once all of the guidelines have been met, the models go to the printer for printing. The way printers handle these jobs is, in all the negative spaces of the box, a layer of wax gets put to create supports and increase the printing accuracy. All of the printers there were all very high maintenance and required regular cleaning and upgrades to improve the efficiency. She then took us to more of a factory looking room with many huge 3D printers and laser cutters doing complicated looking tasks. She mentioned it takes somewhere form 24-48 hours to complete one printing job in those machines.

Once the factory tour was over she spoke to us about some key values that the company held. She said, the company constantly works with some reoccurring artist clients and promotes and supports their work. They believed in highlighting these communities through different means and encapsulating creators to keep the company running.



Personally, for me this trip was really interesting and fun. We had previously visited Hot Pop Factory, which was loosely a smaller version of Shapeways, and it was cool to see how these 3D printing tasks functioned in a big scale. It was very educating to know how exactly these printers worked, so if I ever wanted to do a project I could do it with more efficiency. I was also very impressed by their involvement and respect towards the 3D printing community, and how successfully they had managed to make it part of the company values. Also the presenter Eleanor was very enthusiastic towards her job and did a great job presenting the company.






For our first trip on Thursday, we visited Kickstarter HQ that resided inside this beautiful looking building. Our host John Dimatos showed us around the building and took us to a theater space for his presentation. These were the questions I had come up with to ask him during the presentation:

  • What are some differences between IndieGoGo and Kickstarter?
  • I understand Crowd Funding and Incubation are 2 different means to raise money and support businesses. However, do you ever feel that, in future, Kickstarter might make a physical space where it supports growing community businesses that would lead them to placing their project on Kickstarter. This would still keep the freedom of businesses and ideas but it would give some a stepping-stone to create more solid and successful campaigns.
  • What are some negatives of Kickstarter and what are some ideas that will help improve it?

John Dimatos in his presentation led us through core functions, goals and values Kickstarter held as an organization. He started with explaining the way Kickstarter serves as a stepping-stone to build a direct feedback loop with the audience. It helps build better paths for businesses. He also talked about giving complete independence to creators and allowing them to create a diverse amount of projects. He mentioned that Kickstarter was a bCorp and was very interested in being a culture point. They were an organization that catered to more than profit. He then briefly spoke about future of Kickstarter where, he sees it as a platform to change culture in jobs. If a new graduate student had an idea and wanted to open their own business, they would be able to do it seamlessly.



Assessing from the visit, it seemed like Kickstarter held great business values and visions for the future. They thought about projects and ideas as more than a mean to earn money. They understood them as culture and a medium to bring different creative discipline together. Also, I really liked their take on transparency in process. One thing that slightly discouraged me on this visit was the fact, I felt that he wasn’t giving us any solid down sides of using Kickstarter. Just like the IndieGoGo presentation, a little bit more clarity towards positives and negatives of the platform would’ve been nice.



Little Bits

On Wednesday, our first visit was scheduled at Little Bits’ HQ. Little Bits is a company that produces user-friendly DIY electronic kits and parts that makes prototyping ideas easy. We were welcomed and toured by the Head of Product development Paul Rothman. These were some questions I had come up with to ask him:

  • Since part of the focus for Little Bits was education, have you guys approached or made any partnership with schools and other educational institutes to incorporate Little Bits in to their curriculum? Also what are some other ways you are approaching to spread Little Bits as an educational tool?
  • What was the inspiration behind the idea of Little Bits?
  • Do you see yourself opening small Little Bits shops & spaces to encourage more community members to try and get involved in making cool projects with the products?



Paul Rothman started the visit by giving us a little background on the origins and values of Little Bits. The idea had originated in a hackathon and it was basically aimed to make electronic components easy and fun to use. The company was originally targeted at the Education and Toys market and slowly made its way towards the DIY maker culture. We were given a brief tour of the different departments that were present in Little Bits and the way they operated. They had separate sections for each individual activity, from in-house recording studio to product design. We were shown demos and potential applications that could happen with Little Bits. There was a robotic hand that played Rock, Paper and Scissors with you. Paul mentioned that company was very interested in knowing how the user wanted to use the modules, so they were crowd-sourcing ideas for different modules.




One thing that immediately stood out to me form this presentation was the values of work ethic this company held. Paul mentioned about treating the team like a family. This is a very important and functional environment in my eyes. It helps push excellence and quality in work. I really admired this about them. Other than that, I liked the way company was handling user testing and crowd sourcing ideas, but I was a little hesitant about it. Often a lot of the ideas people come up with gets changed and morphed as a product reaches its final stage. And if ideas change, it might not be exactly the product customers might’ve been looking for. So I was really interested in knowing more about their selection process for these modules. It was great to see a company that was formed from a very basic idea and had gained substantial success.



For our last visit before heading to New York, we went to MaRS to meet a start up company named Push. MaRS is a place of networks and incubators that help new entrepreneurs start businesses. It’s a hub of many start-up companies. Mike Lovas, Chief Design Officer at Push, gave us a brief tour of the place. These are the questions I had constructed for him prior to and during the visit:

  • What was your process journey like from product idea to applying in an incubation program?
  • From your experience, what traits are required in a project, for it to be accepted in an incubation program?
  • You are trying to move your product from an exclusive market to a general one. Don’t you feel that the premium quality that the product currently holds will be lost? Do you feel that creating another device all on its own is a better idea.


Push is a wearable tech company that focuses on high-end athlete’s workout data. They have developed a wearable band called the Push Band that precisely records various different data such as speed, number of sets etc… during a work out. It started out as a quick prototype device that recorded some exercise statistics, and slowly the founders enrolled in an incubation program to make it into an actual product. Mike also ran us through his experience of the incubation program and mentioned several time that it is very hard to run a start up. He had mentioned that for first couple of months they weren’t really able to pay themselves. He also briefly spoke about the business models they had in mind. And how the company was going to push forward. The company was thinking about moving from a very specific market to a bit more generalized one. He also spoke about how the target audience would be shifting and that would force them to simplify their interface.


This trip was a good and educative experience. I was very interested in functional sides of an incubation program, and hearing Mike speak about his experience gave me a good insight about it. The presentation was fulfilling however a little dry. Also, I felt Mike didn’t understand the question I asked, which left me a little disappointed. I admired the company’s dedication towards the product, and at the pace they were able to commercialize it. This trip was also a great example of hardships involved in doing start-ups as well as, the importance of having a good prototype for your product.


NYT Labs

New York Times R&D:



  • Meta-Data and tags already exist to easily access archived articles and data from NY Times, but do you ever fear that in future, there might be too much information for us to access, making it difficult to find the exact ones we might want to look for. Also, do you have any cool ideas that can optimize search times and preferences of the user?
  • The Madison project really interested me; I am very interested in culture & language preservation. I found the tool approached this task in an interesting way, do you see this tool developing and helping in tasks other than specific NYT advertisements?
  • How do you perceive the future of journalism?


For our first trip in New York, we went to NYT Lab located on 28th Floor of this beautiful New York Times building. Noah Feehan, a very talented researcher there, gave us a tour on the types of projects and ideas being nurtured in the space. The overarching vision of their lab was to generate products and concepts that might shape the future of journalism in 3-5 years down the road. Their work was very much focused towards collecting and representing information in ways that can help optimize, archive and articulate it creatively. One of their interesting projects was a web app they developed called Madison. This tool was an attempt at getting the community involved to help archive and transcribe old NY Times advertisements. They also had projects that represented information in a data visualization that tested assumptions and likings of the readers. These results were applied and used to optimize the content and the flow of the newspaper and their website. The lab wasn’t as much interested in making commercial consumer tools, as they were in exploring different creative ideas that can lead the future.


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This trip was fascinating and educative for me. The ideas and projects there were innovative and thought provoking. I really admired their respect towards transparency in their design and understanding of privacy issues for users. I am very interested in the idea of culture and language preservation, and I found their Madison project as a fun tool and approach to address this issue. Even though their ideas were very good, I felt practicality of functions for their tech was a little bit behind. I understood that their projects were not meant to be consumer products and such, but I honestly thought a little more work on them making them more practical could possibly start changing the way we perceive and access media.






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